There was no doubt my life had taken an unexpected detour when I looked at the two books lying on my night table. The Wisdom of Menopause by Christianne Northrup and What to Expect: The Toddler Years by Heidi Murkoff were unlikely companions, but a perfect illustration of my life nine years ago.
I was newly married for the second time and 41 years old when I got the news. I was pregnant. I WAS PREGNANT?! I thought all my eggs were dinosaur eggs. I was wrong! After my sister talked me down from the ledge, pointing out that nobody was sick or had died and reassuring me that this was good news I was able to embrace this unexpected, yet distantly familiar experience. The tiny source of my world being turned upside down’s next oldest sibling was thirteen.
I do believe most people thought I was crazy, but politely kept that to themselves as I continued my work at a small hospital in rural Alberta. My grandmother was keenly interested in the fact that I was pregnant again and confided in her soft, low voice that I was the same age she was when she had her last baby. My own mother (and my husband’s biggest fan) was actually giddy. My dear husband was thrilled enough for the both of us. I confess I had my misgivings about the prospect of starting all over.
As I began to resemble the watermelons I was compelled to devour in copious amounts at all times of the day or night, the overwhelming nausea subsided and we prepared for a baby. Our future was uncertain, as plans to move to southern Alberta turned into a move to the United States. For three months after our precious little boy was born, we even lived in my mother’s basement until our relocation south of the border.
We laughed about it then and marvel now, how at our age, we were treated to a rare and remarkable do-over. We were making our way with not much more than love and experience. We were newlyweds with a baby, changing our boy on my mom’s ironing board in the basement hallway and starting over with very little in the way of material things. Oh, and we were in our 40s. As one of my friends so aptly put it, “…having our own grandchildren”.
As reluctant as I felt at the time, I am equally sure now of the ‘rightness’ of the privilege of having a baby with my dearest love. I’ve been more relaxed and ‘present’, knowing now how quickly the years fly by. My oldest daughter and mother of 3 of our grandchildren has remarked more than once that, “Nathan got a way better mom” and she’s right.
I know what things matter (shutting off the computer and going for an impromptu hike, complete with snacks prepared by the boy and safely stowed in his Scooby Doo insulated lunch bag) and what things really won’t amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things (believe it or not, dishes and laundry wait and there are years of yard work ahead on which to dedicate our time).
I know that taking care of myself and being as fit and energetic as possible must be a priority, because he deserves young parents even if they are old(er). And I will likely color my hair until he’s left the nest, just so he doesn’t have to explain that I’m not his grandmother. This, of course, is a personal choice and I bemoan the fact I will also likely miss my window of opportunity to naturally participate in the current fashion trend of sporting ‘granny hair’. I would never have imagined how having a child at ‘my age’ would enhance my life and even improve my health.
I have wistful regrets about my youthful impatience, inexperience and imperfections that my grown children will undoubtedly remember. Alas, going back in time to make it all right is not an option. I imagine they would probably benefit from a few sessions on a therapist’s couch… because of me.
Because of them, though, I can give their little brother the best possible mother (still ridiculously imperfect, but more patient and experienced). Because of them, the boy has “a way better mom”. And because of them, I’m not taking my time with him for granted.
Somewhere along the way, I held each of them on my knee… for the last time. And there was a last time each of them came to me with a book to read, an ow-ee to be doctored, a school assignment to be proudly displayed and fussed over. I don’t know when those times will be for this boy, but I’m not taking them for granted. Every time is going to be precious.
~Selena Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles To Eternity: A True Internet Love Story